National College Association of Athletics (NCAA) All-American Football Player and National Football League (NFL) Free Agent Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, will address the graduating Class of 2016 on Emory’s 14th annual Class Day, according to Class Day Chair and Goizueta Business School senior Max Mayblum.
Sam will speak on Thursday, May 5, at Glenn Memorial Church.
“I am very pleased that [Sam] has agreed to speak at Class Day,” Michael Kloss, executive director for the Office of University Events, wrote in an email to the Wheel. “He is an inspiration[al] speaker and we look forward to hearing his presentation to the graduating seniors.”
Student input drove the Class Day speaker selection process, Mayblum said. A committee of 10 to 15 juniors and seniors was created with consideration to students’ involvement on campus, outside connections and previous experience with Class Day planning, Mayblum said. He added that the students on the committee are those “who best represent everyone in [their] senior class.”
Near the beginning of this semester, student committee members generated a preliminary list of potential speakers whom Kloss ultimately contacted based on feasibility, Mayblum said.
In addition to Sam, the list also included comedians Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry.
Macklemore, with whom an Emory student had a connection, was also on the committee’s list, but Macklemore was unavailable to speak at Class Day.
Emory’s first Class Day speaker was Danny Glover, followed by similarly well-known personalities such as Chelsea Handler, Adam Richman, Kenneth Cole, Ben and Jerry, Mia Farrow, Peyton Manning and Bill Nye, Kloss wrote.
However, Mayblum said that Emory’s past Class Day speakers have been “pretty homogenous in what they have to offer,” adding that, “No one that we’ve brought in the past has any story like Michael Sam’s.”
Mayblum said that he is excited for Emory to host Sam, and that he expects other students to express similar reactions. “The goal of this is to have someone who’s attractive to everyone in some sort of way,” he said.
Mayblum added that if students maintain open minds, they are guaranteed to “latch onto” something in Sam’s speech.
“Michael Sam made history with the NFL, so he’s going to really draw a lot of attraction from people who like sports, people who want to be involved with the LGBTQ community, people of color [and] people in Atlanta,” he said. “I think altogether, he’s a very well-rounded individual for the speech, and I think he has a really unique message to bring.”